Summary: Chapter 1

A caseworker walks down the line of children who are waiting for breakfast. She stops and asks a boy standing there, “Are you Buddy Caldwell?” “It’s Bud, not Buddy, ma’am,” replies the ten-year-old. She pulls Jerry Clark, a six-year-old, from the line, too. She tells the boys that they’ve been accepted into temporary homes, Jerry to a home with three girls, Bud to the Amoses, who have a 12-year-old son. 

Bud first came to the Home when he was six, after Momma died. This would be his third foster home, so he doesn’t cry when he hears the news. Jerry, on the other hand, is crying, and Bud tries to console him. He remembers what it was like, being six. It’s difficult. Adults don’t think you’re so cute anymore, and they think you understand everything they tell you. Add to that the scary things that start to happen to you, like teeth falling out. Bud says six is a real tough age – adding that he was six when Momma died and he came to the Home. 

Bud pulls his suitcase out from under the bed. He takes out the well-worn blue flyer lying at the bottom of it out and reads it: “LIMITED ENGAGEMENT, Direct from an S.R.O. engagement in New York City, Herman E. Calloway and the Dusky Devastators of the Depression!!!!!!” There is also a blurry picture of a man in the middle of the flyer. Bud says that he is pretty sure this man is his father. 

Under the picture, someone had written, “One Night Only in Flint, Michigan, at the Luxurious Fifty Grand on Saturday June 16, 1932. 9 Until ?” Bud remembers Momma being upset the day she brought that flyer home from work. Not long after that, Bud says, he had knocked on the door of her bedroom and found her.

Bud tucks the flyer back in his suitcase and sits next to Jerry on his bed. He thinks, “Here we go again.”

Analysis: Chapter 1

Belonging and family identify will be a central theme of Curtis’ Bud, Not Buddy. At the beginning of the story, Bud’s words, “Here we go again,” indicate that he is in a situation he has faced before. It isn’t the first time a caseworker has called his name, and incorrectly at that. His correction, “It’s Bud, not Buddy ma’am,” reveals the significance of his self-identity, and foreshadows how powerful the themes of belonging and family will be.

The Home has been a home in name only for Bud since his mother died when he was six. That was the year Bud had to grow up and leave a normal childhood behind. Therefore, when the caseworker tells Bud and six-year-old Jerry that they will be leaving the Home, it doesn’t much matter to Bud. It is evident in Bud’s descriptions in Chapter 1, now that he’s four years older and a bit wiser, that he knows there is nothing normal about being fed and clothed by strangers and bounced from one foster home to the next.

Bud is so hardened by his experiences that he no longer cries when he hears the news that he will be going to yet another temporary home. Jerry cries, and because Bud was once in the same situation as Jerry and his memory is still fresh of the tears he once shed, he has empathy for the boy, especially since none of the adults attempt to help him transition into a home of strangers. Rather, Bud steps up to prepare Jerry for his new temporary home, taking on a parental role and consoling him. Although Bud is unable to cry for himself, he’s still sympathetic to another child.

Bud doesn’t trust the adults around him. He pulls out his suitcase and checks to make sure all its contents are in place, as if someone at the Home might have rifled through it. The flyers in it somehow connect him to family, to his last moments with his mother, and to his place in time—the Great Depression. Despite not having any agency over his future, Bud holds onto hope that one day he will find the man whose picture is on the flyers, the man he’s sure is his father. The chapter ends with Bud and Jerry side by side on the bed, wondering what lies ahead, their futures uncertain. “Here we go again,” thinks Bud.